Visual Studio 2005's big gains come at either end of the experience spectrum. For novice or more casual users, Microsoft has created a new low-cost Express line of Visual Studio products, each of which will retail for just $49. Aimed at hobbyists, enthusiasts, high-school students, and small business developers, the Visual Studio Express Editions—which include versions of Visual Basic 2005, Visual C# 2005, Visual C++ 2005, Visual J++ 2005, and the new Visual Web Developer 2005—are also suitable for database and systems administrators who have occasional scripting or programming duties. Each Express product ships with Visual Studio code editor, an excellent set of documentation that is aimed toward learners, several application Starter Kits, and tutorials.

Visual Web Developer, a standalone application that uses the Visual Studio IDE to facilitate Web development, is particularly interesting, because it marks Microsoft's return to a dedicated Web development environment, similar in concept to the abandoned Visual InterDev product. Unlike previous Visual Studio environments, Visual Web Developer, includes an integrated Web server, so you don't need to have access to an IIS Web server.

The Express Editions, naturally, have some limitations. You can't use these products to create solutions that access remote data; these versions use only a locally installed data source. (You can use the free SQL Server 2005 Express Edition as this source). And VB Express, Visual C# Express, or Visual C++ Express don't include mobile-device development features; you must upgrade to Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition to get those features.

In the center of the product lineup, Visual Studio Standard Edition and Professional Edition carry on with the classic makeup of the product suite, offering an integrated environment for creating software projects that encompass one or more standard Visual Studio languages. Microsoft describes Standard Edition ($299 or $199 for upgrades) as a mainstream, entry-level development suite for occasional developers who need to create Windows applications, mobile applications, Web pages, or Web applications. Standard Edition supports only the new ClickOnce deployment scheme (a new deployment type that I explain in the main article), and the UI is extensible. However, you can't build your own Visual Studio extensions in Standard Edition, though you can utilize any extensions others have built. This version also supports SQL Server Reporting Services and is limited to 32-bit application development.

Professional Edition ($799 or $549 for upgrades) is aimed at professional developers and adds support for remote server development and debugging and remote SQL Server 2005 development. Professional Edition also supplies the full Visual Studio development environment, not the streamlined version that's in Standard Edition. Professional Edition also includes a copy of SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition and supports SQL Server 2005 project integration. This Visual Studio edition also supports deployment types that were supported by earlier Visual Studio releases as well as the integrated ClickOnce deployment scheme. Like Standard Edition, you can extend the Professional Edition IDE, but Professional Edition also lets you build Visual Studio extensions. Professional Edition supports both SQL Server Reporting Services and Crystal Reports and lets you can create 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

There is also a dedicated Visual Studio product for Microsoft Office development. Logically dubbed Visual Studio Tools for Office ($799 or $549 for upgrades), this product is a standalone Visual Studio product that lets you design line of business solutions that utilize Microsoft Excel 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft Word 2003, and Microsoft InfoPath 2003. With this product, it's even possible to create custom applications that run within the task panes of Word and Excel to let enterprises extend these products to meet their needs.

At the high end of the Visual Studio product line are several Team Editions, which target teams of developers at enterprises who need server-based versioning control and other high-end features. Source control is new to this release, replacing Visual SourceSafe, and is designed to handle teams that are geographically dispersed. These products also include new project-management and unit-testing capabilities. Visual Studio 2005 Team System starts at $3191 and includes an MSDN Premium subscription. A server-based Team Edition offering, Foundation Server, costs $2799. Team Suite combines Team Edition with Foundation Server and costs $6382; this version also includes an MSDN Premium subscription.